26 November 2005

Art, Outside Inside


A
while ago, my brother-in-law expressed some interest in an Outsider Art post. His birthday is some time in the end of November, so Happy Birthday. And I call myself family.

Anyway, there are those out there that argue that if you want to figure out what something is, take a look at what it is not. Here's a good nerdy page about this. I always think of the reverse proof when it comes to Outsider Art because in declaring themselves "outside" they have, of necessity simultaneously designated an art "inside". In other words, they have designated what it takes to be a real, legitimate, actual-factual artists, and are saying, "not me" or "not them" which ever the case may be.

Outsider Art is discussed in scholarly journals, exhibited in galleries here and here and here, sold at auction, etc. Looking at the trappings of the art industry that surround them, it looks for all the world as though the outsiders are insiders.

So maybe they are "outside" in a completely different way. Outsider Art is typically spoken of in the same breath with Art Brut, folk art, intuitive art, naive art, visionary art, and children's art, all of which are (among other things) done by people without formal training in the arts. But there are plenty of people without formal training in the arts who are thoroughly "inside". Here's an example:


This is Henri Rousseau's 1910 The Dream. Rousseau had no formal training, but his images are included in any self-respecting book about modernism. Maybe he's "inside" because he so desperately wanted to be.

Anyway, I still have to question the grounds for "outsider" and "insider" status. I'm not sure I really understand how to tell who is who.

7 comments:

Matthew said...

It's very easy. It all depends on which parties you are invited to.

Anonymous said...

This reminds me of the genre/label, indie rock. Originally, it identified "independent" artists, until it became fashionable to like bands that sounded like bands who had no record label. So now "indie rock" has no bearing on whether or not the artist is listened to by the mainstream or a select few, or whether the artist has a huge record contract, etc.

-Amy

Mary Ann said...

That's a great point, Amy. Something similar happened in art when "Modern" quit being whatever was new and started being a distinct movement that is now part of art's history.

Josh said...

i've always shuttered at the term post-modern...

i became fascinated with 'outsider' art when i heard a symphonic depiction of the sculpture The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations' Millennium General Assembly by james hampton - a janitor... hardly an art 'insider'.

the things that intruiged me about this work were the dedication and patience to accomplish, the technical ability involved, and the general lack on knowledge that it existed before the artist's death.

there are plenty of examples of art being found only upon the death of the artist. sometimes the artist truly wants to make a statement to the world, such as rousseau or the composer charles ives, though they lack the voice initially. other times, communication does not seem to be the motivating force behind the art.. and that seems so foriegn to me that it causes me a lot of thought about the purpose of art. if you don't want to say something with art, why do it?

Josh said...

here's a link i meant to add:

http://www.forteantimes.com/articles/150_jamesjanitor.shtml#disp

Josh said...

sorry, that link doesn't seem to work.. if it does, scroll to the top.. or just google the title of that sculpture

Mary Ann said...

Thanks for the link, Josh. I'll have to read up. Hopefully along the way I'll figure out what the difference is between outsiders and all the other non-art artists out there.